Google Gave Free Ads To A Deceptive Anti-Abortion Counseling Organisation

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An anti-abortion nonprofit has raised millions of dollars to further expand its mission to target “abortion-minded women”, and a public filing indicates that about $215,029 of funding has come from Google.

According to a public filing, first reported by the Guardian, Google awarded $120,000 to Catholic nonprofit Obria Group in 2015 and almost $45,873 in 2011 as part of its Google for Nonprofits program. This program “offers eligible organisations access to Google products and tools that can help nonprofits find new donors and volunteers, work more efficiently, and get supporters to take action,” according to a Google support page.

“The Google Ad Grants program is open to qualified nonprofits regardless of their position on abortion and we give grants to nearly 50 thousand organisations globally that represent a wide spectrum of views and causes,” a Google spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. “All grant recipients have to abide by our ad policies, which prohibit misrepresentation in ads. If we find ads that violate our policies, we remove them.”

On its website, Obria says it is a “network of full-service medical clinics,” but the nonprofit doesn’t provide abortion services. Instead, the company operates as a crisis pregnancy center, targeting vulnerable women with the intention of dissuading them from terminating their pregnancy.

In fact, a company slide deck boasted that it “saved” 570 babies last year and achieved “20 successful abortion reversals.”

As Dr. Meera Shah recently wrote for our sister site Jezebel, “abortion reversals” are a myth.

Google joins the likes of other Catholic organisations, conservative investors, and the federal government in providing funding for the anti-abortion group. And Google’s $215,029 effectively gives Obria free advertising tools to help it reach more people. In this case, pregnant women seeking information about abortions.

“Our goal is to basically say we’re going to build a model of comprehensive, holistic medical clinics so that a woman [facing an unplanned pregnancy] never has to darken the door of a Planned Parenthood again,” Obria founder and CEO Kathleen Eaton Bravo told The Daily Signal in March.

Aside from raising capital, Obria has also been rebranding in recent years, and Bravo has even explicitly stated that they are modelling their approach after Planned Parenthood, while actively trying to replace the reproductive health nonprofit, even though they don’t provide contraception or crucial services for unplanned pregnancies.

Instead, Obria characterises its services as a “holistic” alternative. Perhaps the main rebranding effort included changing what was once called Birth Choice Health Clinics to the now Obria, a less anti-choice loaded name. “When we did focus groups, they didn’t like ‘Birth Choice,’” Eaton Bravo told Catholic membership organisation Legatus, detailing the company’s rebrand. “They didn’t know if it was pro-life or pro-choice.”

It’s a deceptive approach, mirroring the framework of an organisation that offers abortions to get misguided women through the door, only to try and caution them against having one. “Their core is as a ‘fake’ women’s health center,” Amy Everitt, state director of NARAL Pro-Choice California, told Politico.

Google doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to providing anti-choice organisations with the tools and platforms needed to amplify their mission, and the manifestation of these strategies are oftentimes predatory and misleading information disguised as a viable resource. In this case, abortion services and/or referrals. Crisis pregnancy centres like Obria are able to utilise Google’s powerful ecosystem to mislead and misinform pregnant women — these organisations have exploited both Google’s Maps and search engine functions.

And during Google’s annual developer conference last year, activists protested outside company headquarters, urging the tech giant to remove crisis pregnancy centres from its search results. Luckily for Obria, the nonprofit didn’t have to come up with creative ways to game the system. Google simply handed the anti-abortion group the money and influence it asked for.

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